Readiness Challenge X: A Legacy of Collaboration

  • Published
  • By Emma Loscalzo
  • Headquarters Air Force, Office of the Director of Civil Engineers

As threats around the world continue to evolve, Airmen must be ready to face the challenges that follow. At Readiness Challenge civil engineers and services from around the world compete against each other in the ultimate challenge of readiness to prepare for the future fight.

Nearly forty years after the event’s inception, 540 participants gathered from 21-26 April for Readiness Challenge X. This year’s six-day challenge not only tested readiness, but it strengthened relationships amongst sister services and with allies and partners.

Readiness Challenge X added four teams to the competition’s roster and an additional day of exercises. For the first time in Readiness Challenge history, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps joined the competition. Also unique to this year’s competition was the development of a Coalition team. Comprised of the U.S. Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Airmen in direct support to the U.S. Space Force, the Coalition team was representative of the challenge itself, bringing the forces together and strengthening interoperability. Finally, two Dutch electricians got also integrated into the USAFE team alongside US Airmen.

The 12 teams participating in Readiness Challenge X included: Air Combat Command (ACC), Air Force District of Washington (AFDW) with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC), Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), Expeditionary Air Base (XAB) team from Air Mobility Command (AMC), U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), Air Education and Training Command (AETC), Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA), AMC, U.S. Army, and the Coalition team.

Observing the Canadian Airmen competing this year, Captain Adam Johnson of the Royal Canadian Air Force said, “I hope they leave here feeling more confident in themselves and their abilities…working with the American kit, and with American Airmen and women.”

This year’s event was planned by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) and the 801st RED HORSE Training Squadron (RHTS) and executed by the latter. Held at the 801 RHTS Operating Location at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the challenge reflects a deployment scenario.

The capstone event assessed participant’s ability to meet challenges in contested, degraded, and operationally limited environments, and identify any gaps in Civil Engineer competencies.

Readiness Challenge X comes at a critical time, as the Air and Space Forces look towards re-optimization. “U.S. Airmen are training to deter and win in the current environment of Great Power Competition,” said Lieutenant General Tom Miller, U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering, and Force Protection. “Readiness Challenge provides the perfect opportunity for Airmen to put their wartime skills to the test as they navigate unknown challenges each day of the competition. Developing critical thinking skills in training ensures we are adaptable in the face of evolving threats in contested environments,” he continued.

At this year’s challenge, there was no lack of opportunity for participants to face the unknown and put their critical thinking skills to the test. During the Fog of War exercise, the twelve teams faced off to establish a contingency operating location which involved identifying and disarming threats, building shelter systems, creating a defensive fighting position, and more. Soon after the exercise began, teams entered a ‘fog of war’ and quickly changed into MOPP gear to protect themselves from a gas threat as they moved forward with the mission. No matter the challenge thrown at the competitors this year, each team exemplified adaptability and the true resiliency of civil engineers.

Amidst the fierce competition, one team rose to the top. Team AFGSC led the way throughout the week, topping the scoreboard each day. No matter the challenge, they successfully defended their position and were crowned victorious. Congratulations to Readiness Challenge X Winner, Team AFGSC!

Captain Matthew Lawler, Team Captain for Team AFGSC, said “I am very proud of our team, all the work we put in finally paid off. We came into this week expecting to dominate the competition - that is why we train as hard as we do at Global Strike.”

Every team competing at this year’s challenge put their all into each exercise, impressing those who were invited to observe.

“This year’s Readiness Challenge is back and better than before with many Distinguished Visitors in attendance, including Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen David W. Allvin, and the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, David A. Flosi,” said Brigadier General Brian Hartless, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers. “The engineers competing at Readiness Challenge, as well as the RED HORSE cadre who facilitated the competition, are more than deserving of the support and recognition from the DVs in attendance. They have worked hard to get to this moment, and every moment since the start of the competition,” he continued.

In addition to having Air Force Leadership present, members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the United Kingdom Royal Air Force, the Royal Netherlands Airforce, the German Air Force, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy also attended as observers of the competition.

German Air Force Engineer Senior Master Sergeant Sascha Meining of the Military Engineering Centre of Excellence spoke on the value of partnership in exercises such as this, saying that he knows “how hard it can be when you have different nations or services on board because you have different approaches. Readiness Challenge is a great way to train and see what everyone can bring to the fight.”

There was a theme that emerged throughout the six-day challenge; everything civil engineers are doing to prepare is vital to the success of the mission. Brigadier General Hartless said, “this challenge is the ultimate test of readiness for civil engineers and is vital to our preparation for the future fight. The interoperability showcased this week exemplifies that we are truly stronger together.”

The future of civil engineer interoperability is bright, with allies and partner nations already looking to be a part of the next phase of Readiness Challenge.

On his attendance as an observer of Readiness Challenge X, Major Katsuda Tomohiro of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) said, “One of the biggest things that I hope to gain from this event is enhancing the interoperability between the JASDF and the USAF… We found a great idea for that in Readiness Challenge. We hope to send JASDF participants to the next Readiness Challenge.”

Readiness Challenge X showed the world how Air Force Civil Engineers approach threats with ferocity, determination, and teamwork. Readiness Challenge will return in 2026, continuing a legacy of preparing civil engineers to excel in any environment, any time.